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Eminent Domain Applied to IP Due To State Secrets

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the we-could-use-this dept.

Patents 312

NormalVisual writes "Wired recently ran a story about a group of inventors that found themselves unable to sue Lucent Technologies for infringement of a patent they held on a novel design for a pipe/cable connector. They had been working with Lucent on an underwater application for this connector, but unfortunately for the inventors, Lucent's application was being developed for an as-yet-unnamed branch of the U.S. government. The government is now claiming a state-secret privilege, and is refusing to let the inventors sue Lucent for patent infringement, citing national security concerns. In the meantime, Lucent continues to directly profit from their invention without paying any royalties or other compensation. The patent in question can be found online. It's doubly a shame because, unlike so many other patents that we've seen here, this one is actually creative and non-obvious." We've touched on this topic before.

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Sweeeeet! (4, Insightful)

denissmith (31123) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633056)

So we want Chinese peasants to pay to watch "Steamboat Willie", but real, live inventors are SOL. God, what a country!

Re:Sweeeeet! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633091)

you misspelled "cunt"

With drugs, we've already paid for the research (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633471)

> real, live inventors are SOL. ...

There is no question that this inventor and investors did get screwed, but with the pharmaceutical industry getting a lot of their basic research performed in public institutions with government grants, and then getting to patent the drug, we're the one's getting screwed. Twice!!

Our government. (2, Insightful)

xilet (741528) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633062)

Ah yes our current government, ever the defender of the small business and common man.

Re:Our government. (1)

PacketScan (797299) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633475)

/me wades through the sarcasm

In Soviet Russia (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633070)

In Soviet Russia, sue LUCENTS YOU!!!

Re:In Soviet Russia (0, Offtopic)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633204)

Maybe I should take her to Soviet Russia then. Sue's a hottie.

Re:In Soviet Russia (0, Offtopic)

richdun (672214) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633248)

Wow, you screwed that one up, I'm not sure what to say...where do we send people who can't even get the Soviet Russia joke right?

Seriously, did you enjoy Siberia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633491)

Brrr..battery down...can't think...
roses red...violets blue...
Soviet Russia...
If I only knew

Whats the deal with all these Soviet Russia jokes recently? Trolls sharing experience for no reason at all. How much time did you guys serve?

I'm SO confused! (0, Troll)

merreborn (853723) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633080)

Are patents evil, or are they good?

It's hard to let Slashdot tell me what to think when they post stories on _both_ sides of an argument!

One-sided posts are all my feeble mind can handle!

Re:I'm SO confused! (1)

notque (636838) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633107)

Are patents evil, or are they good?

It's hard to let Slashdot tell me what to think when they post stories on _both_ sides of an argument!

One-sided posts are all my feeble mind can handle!

Without one of these posts for every slashdot article, I don't know how I could live through the day.

Repetitive jokes that aren't funny are all my feeble mind can handle!

Re:I'm SO confused! (1)

dotpavan (829804) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633134)

Repetitive jokes that aren't funny are all my feeble mind can handle! Let me repeat: I, for one, welcome the Lucent overlords..

Re:I'm SO confused! (5, Insightful)

99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633176)

Are patents evil, or are they good?

...because you know everything has to be one or the other. It's not like some things could be beneficial when applied in certain ways (like traditional patents on non-obvious inventions) and yet be detrimental when used in other ways (patenting business ideas, existing inventions, existing common practices or ideas with "on the internet" appended, software patents, etc.). Can't someone please come up with simple absolute rules for everything so we don't have to think?

It's hard to let Slashdot tell me what to think when they post stories on _both_ sides of an argument!

Yeah we all hate it when a discussion site posts both good and bad things done by a person, organization, or process. That might foster, well discussion.

Man I hope you're trying to be funny, because some days I really can't tell on Slashdot anymore.

Re:I'm SO confused! (1)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633179)

Let me explain: bad patents are bad and good patents are good. There is no such a rule that the slashdot crowd hates patents. Probably software patents are all bad.

Re:I'm SO confused! (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633270)

Software patents are bad.
Stupid patents are bad. Things like a round device that reduces friction to decrease the total energy used to transport a given load over a flat surface.
Some patents are fine.

Re:I'm SO confused! (2, Insightful)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633271)


It's doubly a shame because, unlike so many other patents that we've seen here, this one is actually creative and non-obvious.

Patents CAN be good, but in the current state the patent system is in it gets abused. But here we have someone using the patent system as it was designed, to protect non-obvious ideas and they can't fight it.

Re:I'm SO confused! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633470)

don't forget, US = Big Bad

so special rule here I guess

Soccer sucks (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633081)

Soccer is a terrible sport and its fans are terrible. Soccer fan just exists to riot and shoot flares at goalies. And giving soccer fan beer is like putting michael jackson in charge of a day care.

It's not eminent domain without fair compensation (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633084)

Sounds more like theft than eminent domain. With eminent domain, the government takes your stuff but has to give you market value for it. Here, they're just taking patents away from the inventor. OK, maybe not taking away, but denying the holders of that patent the right to use it in this specific case, which is just as good as taking it away.

Emminent domain would be a FAIRER solution (4, Interesting)

abb3w (696381) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633321)

Goverment declares that the patent has state secrecy implications. Government exercises emminent domain over the patent, and pays them a "fair" (well, laughable) sum. Patent spends the rest of its natural(?) life on a shelf, military applications aside. Lucent and the Government are happy, and the inventor at least is resigned to a clear foundation for the decision in the letter of the constitution (5th amendment).

Of course, doing this would make major patent holders a little more nervous, but it's still a more equitable resultion under the rule of law than "no, you can't sue him, even though you're getting screwed." In the meanwhile, all these guys can do under the current mess is fall back on "peacable petition for redress of grievances"... which is not likely to be effective in this political climate.

Re:It's not eminent domain without fair compensati (2, Interesting)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633326)

They're *supposed* to give you fair market value, but as the recent cases involving Wal-Mart, etc. have shown, that "fair market value" is often nothing of the sort, and equates to theft just as much as the situation in the article. "Eminent domain" in the headline was intended to be seen in that context, not necessarily in the strictest definition of the term.

Re:It's not eminent domain without fair compensati (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633400)

Of course that is absurd as "fair market value" is exactly how much you are willing to sell something for.

"Takings" require compensation (4, Informative)

billstewart (78916) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633335)

The Constitution forbids taking private property for public use without just compensation. If the Feds want to take the "intellectual property" for "National Security" or whatever reasons, they are required to compensate them - assuming the patent owner files a lawsuit in the right form asking the right questions. Doesn't sound like they've done that yet.

Ok, smarty pants... (2, Insightful)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633416)

And what are they supposed to say?

"I'd like compensation for DELETED, which consists of DELETED, and is worth DELETED on the market, because it's comparable to DELETED which costs DELETED yet is better because of DELETED improvements."

It's not eminent domain at all (4, Informative)

jfengel (409917) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633347)

They're not claiming eminent domain, and the original article doesn't mention it; that's from the summary written by the submitter.

They're claiming instead something called the state secrets privilege [] , which has nothing to do with property (intellectual or otherwise) but rather with quashing the lawsuit. Eminent domain has to do with real, not intellectual, property, since it is a "taking", and as is incessantly pointed out on Slashdot you can't "take" intellectual property.

What that big state secret is, of course, I can't say, since most of the filings in the case are (duh) secret.

In other words, the government isn't claiming that it has any rights to the patent; it's just claiming that the guy isn't allowed to sue, because that would violate some big state secret.

So they get to use the patent, with no legal right to it, but what kind of right is it that you can't enforce under the law? No right at all. Sound like a totalitarian regime to you? Gold star!

Re:It's not eminent domain without fair compensati (4, Informative)

john82 (68332) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633448)

The difference here is that Lucent is PROFITING from IP they stole from the inventors. There's nothing they can do while Lucent will continue to commit theft in (likely) an ongoing sole-source contract to provide connectors.

Perhaps the inventors should talk to someone from the Global Intellectual Property Rights Academy [] ?

Ironic... (1)

tagaran (264021) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633096)

considering the previous item.

Ridiculous. (5, Insightful)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633101)

If its a foregone conclusion that the 'Government Agency' are using this tech as provided by Lucent then I don't see how 'state secret' can be a problem (or excuse).

If the 'Government Agency' is allowed this holier-than-thou stance then the plaintiff should just be able to ask: Are you using our tech as provided by Lucent? The agency can then just say yay or nay.

I'm pretty sure the value of the defence contract for Lucent isn't any kind of secret so the courts should award a *fair* share of that ammount to the plaintiff if it is found that Lucent infringed their IP.

Re:Ridiculous. (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633211)

More importantly, since the patent is a matter of public record, there isn't much secret about it. And why would a lawsuit expose the secret government project? It's about Lucent not paying royalties. Unless the 'secret' project is the ONLY means Lucent is profiting from it, there should still be evidence to take the case to court.


Re:Ridiculous. (2, Interesting)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633219)

Apparently its established law that government contractors can steal IP when working on secret projects. This law was created to protect contractors from having to reveal the fact that they are using this technology. Lucent made to attempt at hiding their uses, they just decided to abuse the law to avoid paying. The courts immediently sided with Lucent simply because the law was written without any exceptions so Lucent go away with this easily. The patent holders then sued under breach of contract and such, but the government got all evidence thrown out under "secrecy" rights. So of course the case was lost.

It simply is not a matter of whats "fair" sadly its how the law is written.. Badly. Most likly an old cold war law, that doesn't make sense in todays society.

Re:Ridiculous. (2, Insightful)

danharan (714822) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633365)

So it's established law that security contractors don't have to follow IP law.

Organized crime never had it so good.

Re:Ridiculous. (1)

0x20 (546659) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633280)

Well, then, the agency could just say "nay", even if they were using it, and the case could go no further because nobody's allowed to divulge the details. So what would be the point?

Re:Ridiculous. (2, Insightful)

danharan (714822) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633398)

If the government allows contractors to consistently screw subcontractors of their IP, why would anyone want to keep subcontracting? If subcontractors decide to stop volunteering, what will that do to your military capacity?

The right thing to do from a moral standpoint is to do as the grandparent says: have the government discuss that a tech is used without getting into details. Value of the contract and/or the contribution would help the judge establish a fair compensation.

As it turns out the moral thing is also the practical and strategic thing.

Re:Ridiculous. (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633450)

More importantly, they don't have to say anything at all. They can say "ahh.. Fifth Amendment" and that's the end of it.

state sanctioned theft.. (5, Insightful)

MrLint (519792) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633111)

So can someone tell me which criteria of fascism we haven't had happen yet.

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633224)

Somewhat on topic, The Daily Show last night had a hilarious suggestion for determining who wins the recent evenly-split German elections [] : the first person to burn down the Reichstag [] wins!

It's left up to the reader to decide if that kind of fascism has happened here yet.

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (1)

Epistax (544591) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633230)

Festive hats.

/still waiting

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (1)

Atzanteol (99067) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633294)

Care to tell me which criteria of fascism [] has happened here yet?

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (1)

wcdw (179126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633341)

Geez, didn't you even READ the Wikipedia article?

Quote: Fascism was typified by attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life.

That sounds EXACTLY like what is happening in the US (and other countries) even as we speak. And all in the name of "freedom", which is not EVEN an ironic joke.

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (5, Insightful)

The Angry Mick (632931) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633414)

From the Wikipedia:
The term fascism has come to mean any system of government resembling Mussolini's, that in various combinations:
  • exalts the nation and party above the individual, with the state apparatus being supreme.
  • stresses loyalty to a single leader, and submission to a single culture.
  • engages in economic totalitarianism through the creation of a Corporatist State, where the divergent economic and social interests of different races and classes are combined with the interests of the State.

Um...pretty much all of them?

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (2, Insightful)

bvdbos (724595) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633441)

Judging from the view that Bush represents (=equals) big money:

* exalts the nation and party above the individual, with the state apparatus being supreme.
* exalts large corporationa above the individual, with the large corporations being supreme.

* stresses loyalty to a single leader, and submission to a single culture.
* stresses loyalty to big corporations, and submission to a single culture (=capitalism).

* engages in economic totalitarianism through the creation of a Corporatist State, where the divergent economic and social interests of different races and classes are combined with the interests of the State.
* engages in economic totalitarianism through the creation of a Corporatist State, where the divergent economic and social interests of different races and classes are combined with the interests of the big corporations.

So the comparison wasn't so far off, but {A HREF="'s_law">h ere he is....

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633511)

1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism. From the prominent displays of flags and bunting to the ubiquitous lapel pins, the fervor to show patriotic nationalism, both on the part of the regime itself and of citizens caught up in its frenzy, was always obvious. Catchy slogans, pride in the military, and demands for unity were common themes in expressing this nationalism. It was usually coupled with a suspicion of things foreign that often bordered on xenophobia.

        2. Disdain for the importance of human rights. The regimes themselves viewed human rights as of little value and a hindrance to realizing the objectives of the ruling elite. Through clever use of propaganda, the population was brought to accept these human rights abuses by marginalizing, even demonizing, those being targeted. When abuse was egregious, the tactic was to use secrecy, denial, and disinformation.

          3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. The most significant common thread among these regimes was the use of scapegoating as a means to divert the people's attention from other problems, to shift blame forfailures, and to channel frustration in controlled directions. The methods of choice--relentless propaganda and disinformation--were usually effective. Often the regimes would incite "spontaneous" acts against the target scapegoats, usually communists, socialists, liberals, Jews, ethnic and racial minorities, traditional national enemies, members of other religions, secularists, homosexuals, and"terrorists." Active opponents of these regimes were inevitably labeled as terrorists and dealt with accordingly.

        4. The supremacy of the military/avid militarism. Ruling elites always identified closely with the military and the industrial infrastructure that supported it. A disproportionate share of national resources was allocated to the military, even when domestic needs were acute. The military was seen as an expression of nationalism, and was used whenever possible to assert national goals, intimidate other nations, and increase the power and prestige of the ruling elite.

        5. Rampant sexism. Beyond the simple fact that the political elite and the national culture were male-dominated, these regimes inevitably viewed women as second-class citizens. They were adamantly anti-abortion and also homophobic. These attitudes were usually codified in Draconian laws that enjoyed strong support by the orthodox religion of the country, thus lending the regime cover for its abuses.

          6. A controlled mass media. Under some of the regimes, the mass media were under strict direct control and could be relied upon never to stray from the party line. Other regimes exercised more subtle power to ensure media orthodoxy. Methods included the control of licensing and access to resources, economic pressure, appeals to patriotism, and implied threats. The leaders of the mass media were often politically compatible with the power elite. The result was usually success in keeping the general public unaware of the regimes' excesses.

          7. Obsession with national security. Inevitably, a national security apparatus was under direct control of the ruling elite. It was usually an instrument of oppression, operating in secret and beyond any constraints. Its actions were justified under the rubric of protecting "national security," and questioning its activities was portrayed as unpatriotic or even treasonous.

        8. Religion and ruling elite tied together. Unlike communist regimes, the fascist and protofascist regimes were never proclaimed as godless by their opponents. In fact, most of the regimes attached themselves to the predominant religion of the country and chose to portray themselves as militant defenders of that religion. The fact that the ruling elite's behavior was incompatible with the precepts of the religion was generally swept under the rug. Propaganda kept up the illusion that the ruling elites were defenders of the faith and opponents of the "godless." A perception was manufactured that opposing the power elite was tantamount to an attack on religion.

          9. Power of corporations protected. Although the personal life of ordinary citizens was under strict control, the ability of large corporations to operate in relative freedom was not compromised. The ruling elite saw the corporate structure as a way to not only ensure military production (in developed states), but also as an additional means of social control. Members of the economic elite were often pampered by the political elite to ensure a continued mutuality of interests, especially in the repression of "have-not" citizens.

        10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated. Since organized labor was seen as the one power center that could challenge the political hegemony of the ruling elite and its corporate allies, it was inevitably crushed or made powerless. The poor formed an underclass, viewed with suspicion or outright contempt. Under some regimes, being poor was considered akin to a vice.

        11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts. Intellectuals and the inherent freedom of ideas and expression associated with them were anathema to these regimes. Intellectual and academic freedom were considered subversive to national security and the patriotic ideal. Universities were tightly controlled; politically unreliable faculty harassed or eliminated. Unorthodox ideas or expressions of dissent were strongly attacked, silenced, or crushed. To these regimes, art and literature should serve the national interest or they had no right to exist.

        12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Most of these regimes maintained Draconian systems of criminal justice with huge prison populations. The police were often glorified and had almost unchecked power, leading to rampant abuse. "Normal" and political crime were often merged into trumped-up criminal charges and sometimes used against political opponents of the regime. Fear, and hatred, of criminals or "traitors" was often promoted among the population as an excuse for more police power.

        13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Those in business circles and close to the power elite often used their position to enrich themselves. This corruption worked both ways; the power elite would receive financial gifts and property from the economic elite, who in turn would gain the benefit of government favoritism. Members of the power elite were in a position to obtain vast wealth from other sources as well: for example, by stealing national resources. With the national security apparatus under control and the media muzzled, this corruption was largely unconstrained and not well understood by the general population.

        14. Fraudulent elections. Elections in the form of plebiscites or public opinion polls were usually bogus. When actual elections with candidates were held, they would usually be perverted by the power elite to get the desired result. Common methods included maintaining control of the election machinery, intimidating an disenfranchising opposition voters, destroying or disallowing legal votes, and, as a last resort, turning to a judiciary beholden to the power elite.

  Does any of this ring alarm bells? Of course not. After all, this is America, officially a democracy with the rule of law, a constitution, a free press, honest elections, and a well-informed public constantly being put on guard against evils. Historical comparisons like these are just exercises in verbal gymnastics. Maybe, maybe not.

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (1)

Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633317)

This is a degeneration? We've always had eminent domain in the US. The fact that it applies to IP is a direct, expected, and logical consequence of the concept of "intellectual property". Whether IP exists or is valid is debatable, and may be a degeneration, but eminent domain must necessarily apply to IP if IP is indeed property.

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (-1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633367)

Good God, save the Hitler/Fasicm references for when somebody takes you from your house, takes you to a camp, uses you for slave labor, and throws you in an oven. Using the fasism card for the government's infringment of patent rights is immature, absurd, and really cheap.

Re:state sanctioned theft.. (1)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633479)

If the government does that, then we won't be able to speak out against it.
The point is to stop it from happening, not to let it happen then fight World War III to end it the hard way.

From digg's mouth to Slashdot's ears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633118)

It seems like a good many stories I read on digg show up here sometime later in the day. The best thing? The comments on both sites are usually equally uninformed. At least Digg has a lower volume, but without threading it gets confusing.

Re:From digg's mouth to Slashdot's ears (0, Offtopic)

wcdw (179126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633382)

I prefer Fark, which likewise tends to pre-date /. The lack of threaded comments is a bore, but the wit and humor tends to be higher quality, and there aren't nearly as many wannabes.

Bottom Line: Can't sue Feds and their contractors (3, Insightful)

metoc (224422) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633119)

Essentially this means that the Federal Government and the contractor working for them can't be sued. All they have to do is invoke the states secret privilege and the suit disappears. Anything can become a secret if the government decides that it is important for the safety and security of the country. Since terrorists and hurricanes can strike anywhere, and at anything or anyone, it is all up for grabs.

InsLaw (1)

jockm (233372) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633240)

Yeah we saw much of this before in the InsLaw case []

Re:Bottom Line: Can't sue Feds and their contracto (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633314)

This rules!

The government can arrest individuals and no one has to be notified and those individuals may have no rights including not disclosing to anyone else why they were arrested. They can then be held without bail for an indefinite amount of time.

Not only that, but now the government can hold IP hostage for an indefinite amount of time too.

Is the Internet going to get shut down now too because the government has "State Secrets" on there too and all the terrorists congregate there?

Agreed, for more than one reason. (2, Informative)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633363)

The U.S. court system posthumously awarded patents for the invention of radio to Nikola Tesla in the 40's. It's been posited that the reason this was done was because current patent holder Marconi was suing the US Army for infringement. The US Government sidestepped paying out massive royalties to Marconi by ruling that Tesla, dead and unable to collect, was the rightful holder of the patents.

Creative and non-obvious??? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633123)

Well, it may be creative and non-obvious to you but, anyone that has seen a universal joint [] , such as those on automobiles and other shaft driven machines, is well familiar with this "invention".

If you ask me, it's another patent that should not have been granted.

By the way, the "Eminent Domain" title is just SO much Slashdot FUD.

Re:Creative and non-obvious??? (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633386)

I'm quite familiar with the concept of a universal joint, but that's not what this is. As regards the "eminent domain" in the title, well, we have a situation where the government has taken property from one party and given it to another under the guise of doing it for the good of the people, which is an exercise of the power of eminent domain. As has happened in many cases recently, the government has done so without offering fair compensation to the owner of the property.

Re:Creative and non-obvious??? (1)

wcdw (179126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633446)

I'll agree with the original poster in so far as it is NOT eminent domain. As others have pointed out, eminent domain requires that the affected parties be compensated. Ok, so they're mostly ripped off in that compensation. But they still get it....

Personally, I've never seen a U-joint that looked like two halves of a tennis ball; I suspect the original poster has never seen one at all.

Future effects....? (2, Interesting)

JediLow (831100) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633126)

Sure, while this may actually be a valid use for patents - its gotten to the point where the entire system is beyond repair. Personally I'd love to see this case as being something that helps to revamp the entire patent law (which we all know is necessary). The whole idea of patent law (and copyright law) was to create a system that helped the 'little guy' - instead what we find now is that it only helps the huge corporations that are able to sue for millions in 'damages'. Sad as it may be that someone actually has a valid patent... if this leads to someone (that can do something) to actually look at the law and reform it, I'm all for it.

Misleading topic (4, Insightful)

davidwr (791652) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633131)

1) the company didn't get any cash, like they would in an eminent domain case

2) the company still has patent rights for other uses. Lucent can't license the patent to others for any non-secret projects.

It's more like Lucent is engaging in software or music piracy and thanks to "Kings-X" getting away with it.

Now, if the patent holders refused to license the patent at all, or put onerous restrictions on it, and the government siezed the patent in toto so industry could license it, and paid off the patent owner, that would be eminent domain.

Not misleading.... (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633418)

Your analysis is correct, except where you say "misleading". It would be misleading if it said something the submitter didn't mean to say. But it appears to me that the submitter didn't read the article very carefully, jumped to the conclusion that the government had confiscated the patent, and thinks that "eminent domain" is the correct term for such confiscation.

That's not misleading — that's completely, thoroughly, stupidly wrong.

Funny how things work. (3, Interesting)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633132)

Funny how they rejected this court case stating that going forward would provide more information on this patent to the public, thus causing a "national security" concern due to its secret use. Of course doing so causes it to be national news.. Yep good way to keep it secret.

Re:Funny how things work. (1)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633330)

Funny how they rejected this court case stating that going forward would provide more information on this patent to the public, thus causing a "national security" concern due to its secret use. Of course doing so causes it to be national news.. Yep good way to keep it secret.

They're protecting the project which the patented item is being used on, not the patent itself.

Re:Funny how things work. (1)

quantaman (517394) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633359)

Funny how they rejected this court case stating that going forward would provide more information on this patent to the public, thus causing a "national security" concern due to its secret use. Of course doing so causes it to be national news.. Yep good way to keep it secret.

The patent, which is already public, isn't the thing they're trying to keep secret. It's the "underwater application" and/or whatever the government is planning to do with it they're worried about.

I'm not actually sure if the patent is important in this other than the fact it's what the dispute is over. The way I read it the core of the dispute is that Lucent violated an agreement with the inventors, the inventors however can't sue them about it since the details coming out in court, presumably even with protections they have for sensitive information, would violate national security.

The fact a patent is involved is only an interesting sidenote. I suspect that either some way will be found so that the case can be carried out without national security being violated, or it's just a bug in the legal system which will need to be fixed.

Re:Funny how things work. (1)

smbarbour (893880) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633360)

The fact that they are doing something with the IP is not secret. However, what they are doing with it is secret. Make sense?
When the SR-71 was used in the Vietnam conflict/war, It was in plain sight for everyone in Okinawa to see (for the two minutes between when the hangar opened and when the plane was out of sight). They knew there was a plane, but they didn't know what was special about it.

they couldn't make it work... (2, Insightful)

sdirrim (909976) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633137)

Why not a secret trial? We have all heard about the military tribunals, why not do that for a corporation?

Re:they couldn't make it work... (1)

cnerd2025 (903423) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633188)

Exactly. There is a such thing as a "gag order". The court can do whatever it wants.

Re:they couldn't make it work... (1)

The Angry Mick (632931) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633311)

Apparently, Judge Pauline Newman argued for just such a trial in her dissent. The Wired article though has little to say about why the other judges chose to go this way instead.

I did like this one comment from William Weaver on how the state secrets privilege is used:

"I'm not saying it's always invoked for evil purposes -- it almost certainly is not. But we can't tell when it is, and that's the problem."

but patents are evil anyway, so this is good? (1)

DisprinDirect (755967) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633139)

We can't have it both ways. A patent is a patent is a patent.

Isn't it rather misleading (2)

joeflies (529536) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633142)

for the article summary to call this an application of eminent domain?

Re:Isn't it rather misleading (1)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633264)

for the article summary to call this an application of eminent domain?

Article summaries are there to generate site traffic, not to summarize the articles. Buzzwords trump truth.

Patent Security (1)

wlvdc (842653) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633144)

  • The government is now claiming a state-secret privilege, and is refusing to let the inventors sue Lucent for patent infringement, citing national security concerns.
So every individual or organisation considering to sue a company-with governement interest is a threat to national security.

On Government (3, Insightful)

cnerd2025 (903423) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633145)

"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Hmmmm. IFF the Declaration held the power of law...

Re:On Government (1)

hypnagogue (700024) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633278)

IFF the Declaration held the power of law...
It holds more than that when the Declarer commits his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor. The problem is that there isn't anyone left in this country that still carries the Patrick Henry gene.

Re:On Government (1)

cnerd2025 (903423) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633481)

I would refute that. There are those who have the Patrick Henry gene. He was an honor to Virginians and we will remember him forever. But, I must also state that it was Thomas Jefferson (also a great Virginian), not Patrick Henry, who wrote the Declaration of Independence. These were indeed great men and they should be honored forever. In fact, I would say that there are many people who share their spirit or would, but the ones who gain power use the archaic system of political parties that have increasingly lost a cause; they exist to help the corporate entities who have no votes. I endeavor to change that and reestablish the Constitution to how it was meant to be. Also, I peronally believe that the Declaration, the document from which America derives its birth, should be given legal standing alongside the Constitution. It is not a document meant to establish laws; rather it should be valued as the fundamental American document, which it already is, and grant the rights it mentions to all people. Our country was founded on the principle that the people have the right to challenge their government. Anyone who says differently is ignorant to history. In fact, our country was founded on the principle that people have the right to do what they want, insofar as it doesn't take away the rights of others. At that time it meant white male land owners. Now we are blessed that it means everyone. From the end of WWII and the cultural revolution in the 50s, a countermeasure against the "traditional roles", this country has led itself to a dangerous position. I still am proud to say I am American, but I am not so proud that I am blinded from the truth. We can reform, and saying that "no one has the Patrick Henry gene" is giving into their cause. The corporate commies would like you to think that, but they do not run everything. We do! Power is derived from the people! The government answers to the masses.

In all fairness ... (3, Insightful)

argoff (142580) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633155)

Petents don't help innovation, and they especially do not help the little guy. They are also not pro-business (contrary to popular belief)

I think it is in human nature, then when a system doesn't work, that we try to force it and tweek it to work even if it's premise isn't sound. If people would stop thinking about the "theory" of patents, and stop thinking about the "business" of patnets, and start thinking about the nature of patents - that is to coerce, threaten, and nickel and dime others who use shared ideas by imposing on them the full force of government. I think the debate about patnet problems would take on a whole new meaning.

Re:In all fairness ... (1)

Flower (31351) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633408)

Four guys created this invention. This makes them the little guy. If Lucent had not dropped this bomb on them, Lucent would have had to pay them whatever royalty fee the inventors wanted. If the job had been big enough these guys could have retired on the spot.

The only thing preventing this was the government crying "National Security!" thereby permitting Lucent to trick them into giving away a year's worth of work adapting the invention for underwater use. It is obvious that in any normal trial this behaviour by Lucent would have gotten them proverbially pimped slapped.

The fair solution is for the government to pay these four guys out of the fee they agreed to pay Lucent. The extremely fair solution would be for the fee to be trebled due to Lucent's ongoing duplicity.

Oh, Fascism! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633202)

Thy name is Corporate America.

This is stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633213)

What better why to get people to know about a top secret invention then to make a big deal out of it. Now we know that the government has some reason to want underwater connectors (why? I don't know, but I am not into conspiracy theorys).

Not only is it an abuse of power to deny someone the rights to their invention, but like I said, it brings attention to this.

They should have simply held trial and no one would think twice about it, how many times does person X sue person Y?

I hate this type of hting, it makes no sense on any level

For some reason... (1)

Concern (819622) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633220)

For some reason, the more I read about patents, the more I get the distinct impression that, when you clear away the varied legal wranglings of individual cases and look at the trends, the only people who profit from them are those who are already rich and powerful (corporations, mostly, and the rare wealthy individual).

Re:For some reason... (1)

ajakk (29927) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633343)

Don't forget about the lawyers. Time to polish off my PTO registration.

Re:For some reason... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633436)

Patents enhance the public good because without patents, inventors would have to resort to trade secrets. Before patents, many innovations and improvements died with their inventor, because they were kept as jealously guarded secrets. Patents were invented as a way of stopping the loss of new technology, while at the same time affording the inventor the same benefits as a trade secret, albeit for a limited time. Hence WE ALL benefit from patents; technological progress has expanded greatly since they were implemented, and technology is seldom lost anymore. Inventors still have the option of not filing a patent and relying on trade secret for protection of ideas. But as we have because much better at reverse-engineering, nobody resorts to trade secret anymore.

Carte Blanc? (1)

Lactoso (853587) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633241)

If this is a tenable position, then what's to stop any govt. contractor from violating any existing patents they see fit? Also, should these same contractors be allowed to apply and/or obtain patents for work being performed for the government? Seems like it should be one way or the other...

Funny .. (3, Interesting)

macaulay805 (823467) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633249)

Funny the US wants a global IP plan [] , but yet they screw the IP holders in their own domain. Makes one wonder the fun times of the future in a global sense.

Let me explain this... (5, Informative)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633260)

No power gives the government the ability to take property from you and give it to someone else without compensation. Yet, in this case, that is the result. Why? It's a loophole, and Lucent has exploited it marvelously.

Consider: The executive priviledge in question (and the court case cited) gives the government the ability to restrict the release of information deemed important to national security. That's all.

How did Lucent exploit this to their advantage? They promised to pay for the technology, signed contracts and everything. Then they simply didn't pay. Now, it's up to the screwed party in this case, the plaintiff, to sue for recompense. The plaintiff brings suit. And, in the course of the trial, the plaintiff requests discovery from Lucent to verify it's claims and help make it's case.

Uh-oh. Here's where Big Brother steps in. The government says "you can't talk about that" to the courts, and to both parties. Now what is the plaintiff supposed to do? What evidence can he use? There's probably a contract that details specific technology that they now can't disclose. If they blot out the parts that are sensitive, Lucent can use that to claim reasonable doubt. They can't investigate Lucent to find out that they actually took and used said technology, because Lucent can't reveal that information to the court. The plaintiff is completely screwed, against all logic and reason.

I especially love the quote from the Lucent representative: "You can't try this case in your publication". They understand the issues well enough to know how to screw people; and they did it intentionally.

This is becoming more and more common. I have high voltage power lines, 100 ft tall, in my back yard. Yet, I never gave permission to the power company to put them there. I rejected their low offer when they called to try to purchase an easement, and they said "fine". They never filed condemnation proceedings to take the land. They simply built the power lines illegally, over my objections. They can do this because, in Oklahoma, the constitution provides that the maximum damages for them doing so are the same as the cost of the easement. The most it will cost them is what a judge decides the easement is worth. But, now, it's up to me to file suit to get those damages, which means I'll probably just end up with their low offer minus attorney fees.

And they do this as a matter of course, to everyone. It's fascism by definition.

Re:Let me explain this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633350)

they should have gotten the money first.

Re:Let me explain this... (1)

fajoli (181454) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633383)

No power gives the government the ability to take property from you and give it to someone else without compensation.

Patents are not property.

Re:Let me explain this... (1)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633489)

Since the lines are still there after damages would be awarded, the encroachment would still be ongoing. Is this a loophole in the law? My first thought would be filing an civil lawsuit to get them actually off the property, as opposed to further damages. It would seem to me that this is analogous to someone squatting on a plot of land, paying damages, but then never actually leaving.

Re:Let me explain this... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633493)

We had the same problem with a cell phone tower in our property. Our solution was to take it down, put it on a trailer, and dump it in front of the local branch of the cell company. They got the hint after we did it twice.

Stupid Patent Office! (1)

n6kuy (172098) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633286)

I go to look at the Patent, and the want to "embed" the pictures instead of just "img src=..." them.

So how do you get Firefox to show these?


Closed courtroom (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633292)

This is ridiculous. What information is relevant to the patent, and possible patent litigation, that the inventors do not already have access to?

How much the government is paying Lucent? What the end use of the technology is?

The US Government should either allow the lawsuit to proceed, in a closed setting, with NDAs all around (provided security checks pan out), or pay the inventors.

Is the not the purpose of the patent to allow dissemination of knowledge while protecting revenue sources for the inventor?

If the knowledge is not being disseminated, Lucent should not be protected by a patent.

Of course this is rotten, however... (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633298)

Of course this is rotten and shouldn't be allowed. However, since the patent is clearly unenforcable, why not go into competition and undersell the current infringer? Make it unprofitable for them.

Then stand back and see what the courts want to do about it.

irony of ironies? (1)

amigabill (146897) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633306)

Almost funny considering the previous article on slashdot today is titled "U.S. Announces Global Intellectual Property Plan".

So basically what they're saying is that what's good for everyone else is not good if the US government is involved? Does the USA government also get to take foreign patents for free even if the laws in those countries forbid the practice?

Patents don't apply to military devices (1)

HermanAB (661181) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633384)

This is international, not just USA. Patents don't apply to military devices. Someone needs to be clobbered with a clue stick...

Re:Patents don't apply to military devices (1)

wcdw (179126) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633404)

<snort> A device to couple optical cables is 'a military device'? Yeah, under that logic, so is my aunt martha. It's only a 'military device' because the government wants to be able to keep 'secretly' tapping the underwater optical lines.

Non-obvious??? (1)

St. Arbirix (218306) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633397)

It's doubly a shame because, unlike so many other patents that we've seen here, this one is actually creative and non-obvious.

It was totally obvious. The inventor says he thought of it from looking at the lines on a tennis ball, but I call shens on that! Anyone who's ever made out with someone in their younger years understands the locking mechanism. He just didn't want to say it.

IP? (1, Funny)

Eric_Cartman_South_P (594330) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633427)

I first read that as "I"nternet "P"rotocol. I thought to myself, "Those fucks will never take from me!"

This country is awesome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633442)

And it just keeps getting better.

Jesus wept.

Crap submission (4, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633459)

Ye gads, aren't people confused enough about intellectual property? Put down your ideological axe long enough to get it right.

This has absolutely nothing to do with eminent domain. It would be better for the inventor if it was eminent domain, becuase under that doctrine he'd have to be paid a fair market value for his property. Under this, a more favored vendor is allowed to steal is property, and the government is taking away his right to defend his property in the name of national security. It has nothign to do with the government taking the property itself.

This is the state secrecy doctrine. It says to right in the friggen linked article, with a highly informative blurb in the third paraqraph:

In a little-noticed opinion this month, a federal appeals court ruled against the Crater Coupler patent holders and upheld a sweeping interpretation of the controversial "state secrets privilege" -- an executive power handed down from the English throne under common law that lets the government effectively kill civil lawsuits deemed a threat to national security, even if the state is not a party to the suit.

I refer you to [] for more information on Emininent Domain and ge [] for the states secret privilege.

The linked article would have been more informative if they had mentioned "US vs. Reynolds", the 1953 case in which the US Supreme Court which actually established the privilege in the US . In that case, the widows of three crew members of a B-29 sued the US government for information relating to a crash that killed their husbands. The US government claimed that since they were working on a classified project, divulging the accident report would undermine national security.

As it turned out, they lied. There was nothing sensitive at all in the accident report. There was embarassing information about incompetence and negligence in the maintenance of the aircraft. Which goes to show what Ben Franklin said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." There is nothing more dangerous to liberty than allowing the government to act without accountability, purely on its say so.

I guess that's why they are called.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633469)

Lucent aka Lucifer Enterprises.

Can't sue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13633476)

Get even! Post the data on the internet, where any mid-east country, like Iraq, can access it. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

Signed agreements could've saved them the hassle (1)

Kurt Gray (935) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633480)

From the TFA it seems that the inventor (and partners) had "expectations" of how Lucent would compensate him but no signed agreement. The moral of the story is get a very clear signed agreement before doing the work.

They could also nail Lucent if Lucent tries to sell this connector on the commerical market.

Creative and Non-obvious. (1)

jluros (82770) | more than 8 years ago | (#13633519)

A patent will not issue on an invention unless it is non-obvious. Stating that an invention is non-obvious only says that it might be patentable (assuming the application succeeds on all of the other requirements). That statement really doesn't add much to the conversation.
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